By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com August 22 2013 2:13 PM ET
A Kremlin-backed news network pulled the plug on an interview with a gay American reporter after the journalist launched into a harsh critique of Russia's anti-LGBT laws that ban so-called "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations."
Jamie Kirchick, the gay journalist who is now a writer at large for Radio Free Europe and was once a columnist for The Advocate, appeared on Russian government-owned network Russia Today Wednesday, ostensibly to join a panel discussion about the sentencing of WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning, who just came out as transgender.
"Being here on a Kremlin-funded propaganda network. I’m going to wear my gay pride suspenders and I’m going to speak out against the horrific antigay legislation that Vladimir Putin has signed into law, that passed unanimously by the Russian Duma that criminalizes homosexual propaganda," Kirchick said as soon as the panel turned to him. "It effectively makes it illegal to talk about homosexuality in public. We’ve seen a spate of violent attacks on gay people in Russia."
When RT anchor Yulia Shapovalova interrupted Kirchick to bring him back on topic, Kirchick was defiant.
"I’m not really interested in talking about Bradley [now Chelsea] Manning," Kirchick said. "I’m interested in talking about the horrific environment of homophobia in Russia right now. I’m interested in talking about the horrific environment of homophobia in Russia right now, and to let the Russian gay people know that they have friends and allies in solidarity from people all over the world, and that we’re not going to be silenced in the face horrific repression that is perpetrated by your paymaster, Vladimir Putin. That’s what I’m here to talk about."
After Kirchick's outburst, RT cut his video feed and removed him from the panel's discussion. According to a tweet from Kirchick later that day, the network also ordered the taxicab driving Kirchick to the Stockholm Airport to leave the reporter on the side of the highway instead of taking him all the way to his destination.
RT claims that Kirchick's commentary was entirely off-topic, and told the Washington Blade in a statement that it was "surprising" that Kirchick would expect the government-funded network to pay for his cab fare after trolling the broadcast.
“Logistics management by RT is often part of the agreement when required for a person’s appearance in an RT broadcast,” a network representative told the Blade. “After Mr. Kirchick tried to sabotage RT’s broadcast, it’s rather surprising that he expected us to pay for his taxi ride.”
Watch the exchange below, with Kirchick's segment beginning at the 1:30 mark.